A Conversation with Liza Minnelli
HULICK: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me again. It is such a thrill!
MINNELLI: Oh honey, for me too!
HULICK: You are one busy lady! You just got back from an Australian tour, which was your first solo tour there in 20 years. How did it go?
MINNELLI: It was hot!! It was summer down there! (laughs)
HULICK: (laughs) I hear the reviews were fantastic.
MINNELLI: Yes, it was very successful and I had a wonderful time.
HULICK: One of the reviews said that you “mesmerized the crowd,” which I can attest to from seeing you at Fallsview Casino two years ago. That was an amazing show!
MINNELLI: Thank you, honey! Well I hope to bring you one just as good this time.
HULICK: You will, of course, be doing a benefit concert this Sunday, Nov. 22, at the UB Center for Arts for the Ronald McDonald House of Buffalo.
HULICK: What can we expect this time around?
MINNELLI: You’re going to see everything I think everybody wants to hear. I’ve really paid careful attention. This is a whole different show. The second act is different. What I did was put together a little second act of just songs people have asked me to sing. I thought, “Wait a minute. People keep asking for these songs so why don’t I make it into a second act!” And it worked out wonderfully!
HULICK: You pack so much into your shows and it is so enjoyable watching you. What struck me when I saw you last time was when you were doing a number and you yourself didn’t think that it was perfection and you stopped the music and said, “No… I’m going to do that over again!”
MINNELLI: (laughs) Yes! I remember that. I started it over again.
HULICK: (laughs) I thought nobody would have ever known, but you wanted it perfect… just the way you wanted it. I just thought that was incredible! You touch people so deeply when you perform. Do you realize how much you affect people? I mean you see the standing ovations, you see the smiles and you hear the cheers, but does it sink in that it goes deeper than that?
MINNELLI: When I was about 17, I saw Charles Aznavour and it was different from anything I’ve ever seen. Every song was like a little movie. And I thought: that’s what I want to do. So I met him and I asked him if I could be his protégée. And he said, “Do you like to learn?” And I said, ‘yes,’ and he’s never stopped teaching me (laughs).
HULICK: (laughs) And you’ve never stopped learning.
MINNELLI: Well, no. I went to Ron Lewis in 1970 and we haven’t stopped working together since.
HULICK: Let’s talk about “Liza’s At the Palace.” You had an extraordinary five weeks of sold out shows on Broadway, which won you the 2009 Drama Desk Award, as well as a Tony for Best Special Theatrical Event. Does it ever get ‘old hat’ to receive awards like this?
MINNELLI: No, because nobody believed in this show.
MINNELLI: I really had to sell it! Thank God I got a hold of Ron (Lewis) because he looked at it and I said, “Could you give me a couple of steps?” and he said, “Oh you need more than that!” And I said, “Well what do you mean?” He said, “Well if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do the whole thing!” And I thought, that’s what I wanted! (laughs) From that minute on we worked on this darn thing and it was two years before I brought it to Broadway.
HULICK: I didn’t realize that. So that must have just felt so unbelievably awesome when you won those awards because you believed in it all along.
MINNELLI: Yes, it did. It’s one of those things when you think, well it will either work or it won’t. And I knew the choreography and the staging would work…and I knew the guys’ voices would work, but those four guys couldn’t dance… they were not dancers. But he had them moving around that stage…well, they were just flying. And that whole section is just wonderful!
HULICK: These are the four guys that portray the Williams Brothers in your tribute to your Godmother Kay Thompson.
HULICK: This show was taped in Las Vegas and will be broadcast Nov. 27 on PBS in the Buffalo and Toronto areas. How important do you think public television is, Liza? For the arts in particular.
MINNELLI: Well, I think it’s very important because you get to see things you wouldn’t necessarily get to see or think of seeing. It’s like all the kids that came to see this show. They were thunderstruck. They just had no idea they were going to have such a good time (laughs). And they came back again and again.
HULICK: You know audiences have changed over the years. You now get young kids up to people 100 years old.
MINNELLI: Absolutely! I mean, a grandmother brings her daughter and granddaughter and great-granddaughter. And they’re saying, “Oh, this is what you were talking about.”
HULICK: You have been offered, many times, to write your autobiography, which you have declined because you say your music is your biography. This show, “Liza’s At the Palace,” is said to be your most autobiographical to date. Do you think that is true? Do you think everything anyone wants to know about Liza Minnelli is right there on that DVD?
MINNELLI: Well so far, yes. By seeing this show they’ll all understand. They’ll understand where I’m coming from. I don’t think anybody has any idea, the influences and the way that Kay (Thompson) really raised me.
HULICK: Yes. When I talked to you last we went into depth on the effect she had on your life, which was extraordinary. She was there for you from day one.
MINNELLI: Always. But she always made it fun.
HULICK: Do you still have your puppy, Emalina?
MINNELLI: Oh, yes! I have three of them! I have Emalina and her son and her grandson. And they are so heavenly!
HULICK: Wow! You were so happy when we talked last because she was pregnant.
MINNELLI: Yes! Well she was pregnant again (laughs)! I love it! They don’t bark…they’re schnauzers. They’re just as calm as anything and very funny and very smart. They say that your pets reflect the kind of person you are. They are so calm. They know me. I’m just calm at home.
HULICK: Well I’d imagine… you’d have to be… you wear yourself out working and rehearsing all day long! (laughs)
MINNELLI: (laughs) Well, I love to work. Even when I’m working I go to dance class every day. (laughs